In what’s believed to be a pro sports first, the NBA this week began selling official T-shirts that feature some of the league’s biggest stars’ Twitter handles above their jersey numbers, where surnames would normally go. The shirts are available at the NBA Store website and include Durant, Dwyane Wade, Jeremy Lin and a number of other big names.
Lisa Pilken, the NBA’s vice president of licensing, says the move is in keeping with the league’s tradition of creativity in social media.
“We are always looking at new ways to connect with fans,” Pilken told Mashable in an email. “As the top sports league on Twitter with more than 4.5 million followers on @NBA and more than 350 NBA players active on the site, we thought this would be a great way to engage with our fans.”
NBA players were among the first pro athletes to embrace Twitter. In 2009, Milwaukee Bucks forward Charlie Villanueva was reprimanded for tweeting from the team locker room during halftime of a game. Later that year, Minnesota Timberwolves forward Kevin Love used a tweet to break news that the team’s coach had been fired.
The league as a whole has been especially adept at leveraging social media as well, and this year hosted a digitally influenced All-Star Weekend.
While the NBA is the first league to officially make player Twitter T-shirts, it’s not the first to have a version of the idea. The sports-meets-social site TweetStarGame has an online store selling Twitter-handle shirts of players from a number of sports. Professional soccer and lacrosse teams have also replaced players’ names with their handles on official game uniforms.
Do you think putting players’ Twitter handles on T-shirts is a smart marketing play or not? Let us know in the comments.
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